At a lavish gala presentation overnight in Canberra the Australian rallying community welcomed the first ever inductees into the Hall of Fame. In total 13 distinguished individuals were introduced ranging from drivers, to co-drivers, to officials and administrators.
In alphabetical order the Hall of Fame inductees are Neal Bates, Peter (Possum) Bourne, Garry Connelly, Ross Dunkerton, Harry Firth, John Large, Jack Murray, George Shepherd, Tom Snooks, Doug Stewart, Donald K Thomson, Ken Tubman and Bob Watson.
The following highlights mark each Hall of Fame inductee:
Neal was responsible to bringing Toyota to Australian rallying and keeping them involved in the sport for over twenty years.
His driving abilities, four Australian Rally Championships and likeable personality have contributed to lift the media profile of rallying, not only within the motorsport media domain but also within mainstream media.
Neal is Patron of the NSW Rally Championship and actively involved in helping NSW events and competitors in a mentoring role.
Neal has mentored many up-and-coming young rally drivers over the past twenty years, and continues to 'give back' to the sport in many ways.
Possum transformed what was essentially an amateur sport at the top level in this part of the world into a professional one. He was focused on having a presentable image and on giving his sponsors and supporters tangible benefits to make rallying more appealing to the general public.
Anyone who knew Possum would know he was an ordinary guy with more than a passion for rallying. His enthusiasm was infectious and he had a loyal group of supporters and crew behind him. He always gave time to his fans, always had a smile on his face. You just couldn't help but like Possum.
On the rally stage he was near unstoppable and he dominated the Australian Championship throughout the second half of the ‘90s and into the early 2000’s, claiming seven consecutive titles to go alongside his three Asia-Pacific crowns.
Having started his rally career in 1967 Garry has forged a remarkable career administering rallying, from the local grassroots level all the way to the upper echelons of the FIA.
Connelly steered the introduction of Rally Australia in Western Australia in 1988 and as the Clerk of Course for the majority of those years helped shape what was regularly regarded as the most professionally run event in the World Championship.
Increasing competitor safety has always been an issue close to Connelly’s heart, he witnessed first hand the tragic death of Possum Bourne’s co-driver Roger Freeth at Rally Australia in 1993, and currently is both the Deputy President of the FIA Institute of Motor Sport Safety & Sustainability and Director of the Australian Institute of Motor Sport Safety.
Winner of five Australian Rally Championships, two Asia-Pacific Rally Championships and thirty-seven International rallies, Ross Dunkerton - over five decades - is arguably Australia's greatest rally driver.
Away from the rally stages though Ross is a successful businessman, well respected after dinner speaker, television star in his native West Australia, family man and raconteur extraordinaire.
He is a larrikin who has achieved major success as well as surviving two serious accidents and nineteen rollovers.
A leading race and rally driver during the 1950s and 1960s, Harry Firth continued as an influential team manager with first the Ford works team and then the famed Holden Dealer Team (HDT) well into the 1970s.
Firth’s nickname was "the fox", implying his use of cunning ploys as a team manager. Firth won the Bathurst 500, including its predecessor at Phillip Island, four times (twice in the final two races held at the Island and twice at Bathurst). He also won the Southern Cross Rally and the Australian Rally Championship. He was inducted into the V8 Supercar Hall of Fame in 2007.
Large, a former pharmacist, began his motor sport involvement as a co-driver in rallies and subsequently went on to become Australian Rally Champion in 1975 as co-driver for Ross Dunkerton.
But it was as an administrator that he made his greatest motor sport contribution. In 1983 he would be elected as CAMS President, a position he held until 1994 and the longest-ever serving CAMS president to this day.
In 1987 he began his role with the world governing body of motor sport, the FIA, when he was appointed as Australia’s delegate. Large was also a long-standing member of the FIA World Motor Sport Council and it was during this time that he played a major role in securing FIA World Championship events for Australia - the formula one grand prix and rally Australia.
Large continued to climb the international ranks, elected Vice President of the FIA in 1990 and elected to the FIA Senate in 2001. In 2004 he was also appointed Deputy President of the newly-created FIA institute of Motorsport Safety. It was extremely rare for a person from outside Europe to be appointed to a senior position on such a body, which reflected the regard in which Large was held within the motor sport community.
‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray raised the profile of the rallying as a sport in Australia and to this day everyone involved in or interested in the sport knows his name.
A larger-than-life Aussie larrikin with a roguish smile, he became the star of our earliest car rallies in passenger cars over almost non-existent Australian Outback tracks.
In 1954 Murray, driving a Ford Mercury which became known as the ‘Grey Ghost’, dominated the Redex Trial, not losing a single point for completing a stage too early or too late.
With a penchant for practical jokes, regularly involving sticks of gelignite, Murray left an indelible mark on early Australian motorsport.
Born into a motorsport family, George would taste success at an early age co-driving with legend Colin Bond, going on to claim four Australian Rally Championship co-drivers titles.
Team management became George’s calling and he continued his success outside of the car when he developed and ran General Motors-Holden’s 1979 Round Australia Trial, and event that would see the team claim an astounding clean sweep of the podium.
George returned to the drivers seat in the late ‘90s, before going on to claim three Queensland Rally Championships in the early 2000’s. After retiring from active competition George continues to help steer his son Steven’s rallying career in the Australian Rally Championship as well as managing a successful suspension business in Queensland.
An extraordinary 45 years in event administration has seen Tom Snooks travel the length and breadth of the country, helping the successful running of numerous events as an official, a PR man, an administrator and a Clerk of Course.
The honour roll of events Tom has been actively involved in is too numerous to canvas in one go, but the highlights read as a testament to his determination and drive across an immense variety of roles.
From the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon, through the Ampol Trial, Dulux Rally and South Cross of the ‘70s, as a CAMS administrator in the early ‘80s and Wynns Safari into the mid ‘90s before a change to Clerk of Course for Targa Tasmania through to the early 2000’s.
In his early years he won the 1957 Ampol Trial with Jack Witter in a Volkswagen, and was placed fourth in the 1964 and fifth in the 1970 Ampol round Australia Trials.
Doug’s service to as an administrator saw him join CAMS as National Councilor representing NSW from 1959 to 1968, and then as National President from 1969 to 1971. Doug was also Chairman of the NSW State Council for numerous years in the 1950s and ’60s.
Best well known for his contribution to the sport as a competitor and, more particularly, as the leader of the very successful Mitsubishi involvement in the sport since 1967. It was Doug who gained the confidence of the Mitsubishi Motors Japan executives to become involved in Australia, and later to support him when he set up Ralliart, which was involved in rallying and some circuit racing in the 1980s and ’90s.
In the Southern Cross International rally Mitsubishi (Colt, Galant and then Lancer) was always very prominently placed from 1967, being both first and second from 1973 to 1976, with first to fourth placings in 1973. Under the Ralliart banner Mitsubishi dominated the Wynn’s/Australian Safari with its Pajero from 1985 until its withdrawal after 1991, winning first and second place in each of those years – Andrew Cowan (2), Doug Stewart, Ross Dunkerton, David Officer (2) & Kenjiro Shinozuka.
Donald Thomson served in the RAAF as a flying instructor during WWII and after the war became friendly with Cec Warren – a well-known speedway driver. In 1949 Thomson was talked into competing in a reliability trial and from there his involvement in motorsport flourished.
In October 1952 the Australian Automobile Association announced it would abandon controlling motor sport from the end of the year. Motorsport enthusiasts from each State were stirred into action and the new body CAMS existed as of February 1953. Maurie Monk was Founding President whilst Thomson worked ‘behind the scenes’ as at the time he had some tensions with certain Victorian clubs. At the first Annual General Meeting of CAMS in November 1953 Thomson was installed as National Secretary, later it was termed Secretary-General, until his retirement in June 1973.
During his role as Secretary-General Thomson achieved direct affiliation of CAMS with the FIA in 1958, and he continued to represent CAMS at the FIA after his retirement as Secretary-General in 1973. At his final attendance as CAMS delegate to the FIA in October 1958 he received the ‘Membre d’Honour ’of the FIA.
One of the best known early rally drivers in the world, Ken Tubman drove rally cars for more than 40 years with his major achievements winning the first Australian Redex Trial in 1953 at the wheel of a Peugeot 203 and winning the second Special World Cup Rally in 1970, traveling from London to Munich.
He was among the leaders in the 1974 World Cup Rally before sacrificing his chances by stopping to help a fellow competitor who had crashed. He went on to help organise the 1978 World Cup Rally.
Few could match the motoring exploits of Bob Watson, in a career that started with the purchase of his first car, an Austin Seven, at the age of 15 after seeing the competing cars in the first Redex Trial in 1953.
As an engineer Bob worked throughout the ‘60s for Holden on brake and chassis development before joining Renault Australia in the early ‘70s to direct their rallying program.
In the ‘90s Bob turned his attention to writing and began regularly contributing to publications Auto Action, Which Car and Car Australia. At the same time he began directing rallies, most famously the 1995 Mobil 1 Trial and later the Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial.
Bob’s successes include winning the Australian Rally Championship, a record four Victorian Rally Championships, wins in the BP Rally of South Eastern Australia, the Alpine Rally, the inaugural Don Capasco Rally, and third behind two leading International drivers in the Southern Cross Rally. Bob’s track successes include winning the 1968 Sandown Three Hour race (with Tony Roberts) – giving Holden its first major race victory for the then-new Monaro – and third at Bathurst in the same privately owned GTS 327 Monaro.